How I really feel about the query letter.

(This is for writers who have already learned the basic components of a query letter but have yet to sign with an agent. There are many wonderful blogs out there that cover the basics.)

If you didn’t notice, my interview yesterday was based on the movie, Interview with a Vampire. I even watched the first few opening lines in the trailer to get in the mood.

I chose this movie, well, because honestly, the query letter is often  viewed as the evil vampire (even though vampires aren’t quite so evil since Edward). Writers rant about the query letter. Hate them. Love them. Have all their hopes and dreams in them.  And sometimes writers are like Christian Slater, who in the movie, interviewed the vampire. He was naive. Innocent. Shocked.

And, as writers, we often come into writing our first query naive. Innocent. Shocked. Shocked at how hard it is to write a snappy query (unless you are one of those natural query letter people out there, which I’m sure there are some).

Think of all we are trying to accomplish in one 250 word letter:

A teaser of our novel, written so it doesn’t sound cliche, boring, or vague.

A snippet of our writing style, even though two of the paragraphs are all about wordcount, genre, and our bio (if we’re lucky enough to have one).

A taste of our writing voice and a quick peek into our main character so hopefully an agent or editor will connect with them.

Prove that we have mastered basic grammar and speling scills.

Make a connection with the agent without lying, sounding fake, or sounding like a total suck-up.

(I’m sure the list could go on and on and on and on and on.)

It sounds near impossible. But it isn’t. I tried to find the magic formula. I scoured the web. I read agent blogs. I read successful query letters. And after I’d learned the basics, the letters helped the most.

I saw details that were unique and interesting, instead of vague. I saw voice! Nothing was confusing. And they didn’t try to tell their story in 3 sentences. They took a couple paragraphs. Strong verbs, good grammar, fun main character traits…

When I’m ready to query in a couple months (hopefully) I’m coming at the query from a different angle. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and write the kind of letter that I would want to receive, that would interest me. It’s all part of my resolution for this new year. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone, out of the box, when it comes to my writing. Out of the safety zone, which is uually blah, boring, and boring.

But of course, even the best written query can’t hide a weak plot or story premise. So write a gotta-read story, and then step out of the box when you write your query. (Of course being professional at all times.)

My biggest piece of advice?

Don’t have too many people critique it. Don’t workshop your letter to death so any personality or style is stamped out of it. And go with your gut. And hopefully, it will reflect your writing, your voice, your style.

How do you feel about the query? Any advice?

2 Responses to How I really feel about the query letter.

  1. Heather Kelly January 10, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    I’m like my query. I wrote it a while back, before I started revising–you know when I thought, “Oh, how hard can this revision thing be–I’ll be done in a month!” Many months (during which I started another ms as well) later, I’m still revising. And I have one thing to add to my query, but I’m excited to get it out there… someday!

    • Laura Pauling January 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

      Good luck when sending out those queries! Hope you find the right agent at the right time with the right manuscript…

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